Navy begins recovery mission at Tulane
Navy got off to a terrible start in its season opener and never turned it around.
Tulane got off to a slow start in its season opener, but everything turned out OK.
Now the Midshipmen plot a recovery mission as they tackle the Green Wave in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams Saturday.
Navy didn’t have live contact in preparation for its season opener against visiting BYU on Sept. 7. It showed as the Cougars rolled to a 55-3 victory that Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo called “your worst nightmare.”
“As the first few plays happened, I was like ‘Yikes!’ We were moving at two different speeds,” Niumatalolo said. “They looked like they were playing a game. We looked like we were playing our first scrimmage.”
BYU was dominant at the line of scrimmage and outgained the Midshipmen 580-149.
Niumatalolo had been cautious in preseason practice because of COVID-19 concerns. After the loss to BYU he consulted medical professionals at Navy for guidance on how to have safe, live contact.
“Touch football is over,” Niumatalolo said. “Hitting bags is over. … I feel like we can do football stuff now and keep our guys safe. We have to speed up some stuff because we didn’t have spring ball or tackle in camp. We’ll definitely make way more improvement now that we get to have real football practice.”
Tulane looked like it was headed to a similar blowout loss when host South Alabama opened a 24-6 third-quarter lead last Saturday, but the Green Wave scored the final 21 points to prevail.
It was the first time Tulane won its season opener on the road since 1998 when it finished 12-0 and ranked No. 7.
“It was a great team win,” quarterback Keon Howard said. “It just shows the maturity of our team. We showed unity. That’s the most important thing.”
Coach Willie Fritz naturally was pleased with the comeback, but emphasized that the Green Wave need to put together a more complete performance to form a winning streak.
“It’s a heck of a lot better to learn something from a win than a loss,” Fritz said. “The majority of our guys did a good job of fighting and scratching and clawing the whole game, but we just have to have everybody doing it from the first quarter on.”
Fritz, who is in his fifth season, has led Tulane to consecutive 7-6 seasons and bowl victories in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. He recently signed a contract extension through 2027.
Tulane will not allow spectators at its home opener as a part of COVID-19 precautions.
The Midshipmen have won four of the five meetings since joining the AAC. The average margin of victory in those five games is six points and the last three meetings have been decided by a total of six points.
–Field Level Media